So it has been over a week since West Ham parted ways with Sam Alladyce and his departure was greeted with cheers from some quarters amongst our fan base.
This was juxtaposed by cries of ‘be careful what you wish for’ from largely out of touch pundits and journalists alike.
In all honesty we should probably be somewhere in the middle – not celebrating Sam leaving whilst humming ‘ding dong the witch is dead’ nor dropping to our knee’s in despair that the “only-man-in-world-football-that-can-keep-west-ham-in-the-premiership” (if Souness and Shearer amongst others are to be believed) has left. For me Sam deserves a lot of credit for the work he has done, and more to the point, praise for the fact that the board felt able to go in a new direction with a new man due to his achievements.
When Big Sam arrived back in June 2011 the club was on its knees. We had been relegated and had a squad of players who either believed they were too good for Championship football (despite not being good enough to keep us in the Premie League in the first place) or who, in reality, weren’t up to the task of getting us back up.
Sam not only dealt with the fall out, but assembled a squad that – on paper – was capable of winning the league, or at least in the eyes of some who seem to level it as a criticism of Sam that we didn’t gain automatic promotion.
In reality, it took the Play-Offs to secure our place back amongst the elite. However, this is, in my opinion, still an amazing achievement – we all know that a huge turn over in playing staff can take time to find the right balance, we were also the “Big Scalp” in the league and everyone upped their game against us.
You only have to look at Birmingham who came down with us, as well as the likes of Fulham and Wigan, to see how difficult it is to get out of the Championship at all, never mind at the first attempt. So year one was an over whelming success.
Year two, and Sam’s aim (and most of our expectations) was to survive at all costs. He again shuffled his pack, getting rid of the Championship standard players and replacing them with more Premiership ready ballers.
Despite some moans about the quality of football, Sam exceeded expectations, taking us comfortably to a 10th place finish (and the monetary bonuses that came with it). His achievements in our first season back not only surpassed our aims but also enabled us to attract better players with Andy Carroll joining permanently, as well as England international Stewart Downing.
Our star was on the rise – thanks to Sam.
Year three wasn’t quite what we had hoped. The previous season had heightened our hopes and as such the subsequent staggering and stuttering of 2013-14 seemed even worse.
Some of the football was woeful and the fans let Sam know it. Sam pointed to injuries, we pointed to a lack of further signings. The relationship became more strained than ever.
However, when I think back to our times under Avram or Roeder (as well as Zola to be fair) such injury woes and fan unrest would have spelt relegation. We ran it close, but we stayed up and I think it would be fool hardy to say that Sam doesn’t deserve some credit for aiding our survival.
The board then had a decision to make – stick or twist? Some fans had made it very clear they wanted ‘Sam Out’ and it would have been no surprise to see them bow to public pressure and jettison the manager to appease the masses.
But they didn’t. They didn’t feel it was the right time. They didn’t feel they could let Sam go. They weren’t confident of staying up without him, or of attracting a manager who could do what was required.
A year on, and they have no such fears. This season started with real promise and swagger. Up until Christmas we were playing some lovely stuff and winning matches and plaudits alike. We had another very successful summer of recruitment and now have a squad that, although lacking in depth, has real quality and potential.
Sam deserves as much credit for this as he does jeers and tuts for the way the season ended. That ending aside, we have still qualified for Europe.
He divided us as fans, but he united us as a club and has improved our team year after year. We are now in a position where messiahs Gold and Sullivan feel confident to cut our ties with Sam and aim higher.
The names touted about as his replacement are a nod to what he achieved whilst at the helm.
And if whoever does come – be it Emery, Bilic, Beisla or even de Boer – is as successful as Sam has been, then in four years’ time the likes of Klopp, Benitez etc. will be genuine contenders to take up the mantle.